For many active duty military service members, keeping an eye on the usefulness of their hard-won skill sets in the civilian sector is a top priority. After all, all service members ultimately retire. And the lion’s share of them will pursue careers as civilians once their military careers end.
The period leading up to transition back to civilian life is a vital one — and just as in every career, failing to prepare can be failing to succeed.
Programs such as DoD SkillBridge serve as vital conduits to help streamline the process to help service members prepare for this transition and pull it off with success.
How does SkillBridge work?
Service members can choose to gain work experience in a SkillBridge-approved organization during the last 180 days of their service period. And we have some good news – Rise8 is on the list!
For the purposes of this article, we will call SkillBridge an “internship” however, we like to think about SkillBridge as more of a fellowship because participants are likely already qualified/experienced for the role they’ll be doing and maintain their full salaries during their participation period. It’s a chance for service members to take advantage of the fact that the US military is committed to ensuring that they go on to develop fruitful careers in their life after the military.
SkillBridge participants can choose diverse pathways for their program. Some of them chose to partner with organizations like Rise8 that have a strong focus on working with the military. Others carve a path that is unrelated to the job they did in the military. One participant we spoke to retrained as a CrossFit coach while another developed highly lucrative expertise in deploying infrastructure as code.
Some things people told us they love about SkillBridge:
Learning how to navigate civilian working cultures. After 20 years in the military, one SkillBridge participant told us that he appreciated the help of HR at his SkillBridge placement to work through the “basic adult stuff” that comes with a civilian job.
Being inspired to develop ancillary skill sets to those developed in the military. Sometimes it’s the combination of these that makes former service members the most employable.
Discovering the income potential and value of the roles they may already be doing in the military. Marc Miller (formerly USAF) spoke to us about this and said, “It’s really opened my eyes as to what my work is worth. After 20 years of enlisted salary, the numbers coming at me are kinda mind blowing!”
What do you need to do to make the experience a success?
Some say that SkillBridge is the easiest transition program they experienced. And you only need two things to participate:
Your commander’s approval
A sponsoring company
According to Steve Hauk, a SkillBridge participant and guest of the on View From The Skies podcast, mindset goes a long way to help participants reap the benefits of an organized transition back into the civilian workforce. He says that this is an opportunity to do far more than just “show up” and see themselves as temporary labor sources being tapped while they’re in transition. Steve also shared a video on his YouTube channel called My Top 5 DoD SkillBridge Tips.
Our biggest suggestion for your success is to start preparing for your placement 6 months before you’re eligible to start your internship. Rico Mendiola, a Rise8 SkillBridge intern and Product Manager says, “I learned that you have to take responsibility for doing everything to really get the most out of SkillBridge. You have to do the research to know all the rules of the program, how to apply, who approves etc. No one will hand anything to you – you have to go out there and get it. I would start preparing 6 months before your projected start date. That gives you enough time to do everything you need to really get what you need done.”
Former airman Marc Miller confirmed this when he told us, ”Start early! If you’re going with a company that is not on the pre-approved list, you need to get that ball rolling early or you’ll miss out on some very valuable time. In my experience with basically any good program in the AF/DoD, it’s like they’re doing it for the very first time, so if you don’t plan for some delays you’re gonna be a sad panda. Due to the approval process and some tightening on remote SkillBridge at Langley, I only got to benefit from 45 days of my internship.”
Marc also tells us that out-processing can cut short your internship as well which was, as he put it, the greatest drawback to doing SkillBridge. “My time is getting cut even more due to some out-processing tasks that I couldn’t complete without a Memorandum of Participation in hand. So now I am left out-processing when I want to be learning!”
How to find a SkillBridge authorized organization
The official SkillBridge site has a search function to locate SkillBridge authorized organizations already aligned with the program. Alternatively, you can locate a business you’d like to offer yourself to and convince them to join SkillBridge. Some participants we’ve spoken to had luck with this while others did not so that seems a bit hit-or-miss. You really need to leverage your networking skills and maximize use of Linkedin if you want to go this route. And, likely, you should start earlier than 6 months in advance to give them time to do the process of becoming a SkillBridge authorized company.
Marc Miller did just this. “I had been talking with folks at the company prior, and I became their first SkillBridge intern. None of the pre-approved stuff really matched up to what I wanted to do, though there were some neat programs.”
Why Chose Rise8 For Your SkillBridge Experience?
As a Veteran-owned business, Rise8 is proud to join forces with the Department of Defense to help some of the brightest minds transition into new challenges that take them, and us, in exciting new directions.
Rise8 blends Silicon Valley savvy and DoD experience to help the military adopt and deploy the kind of agile software development they so badly need to win tomorrow’s wars and create a better world where fewer bad things happen because of bad software. You can learn more about our origin story here.
SkillBridge interns at Rise8 can expect to join highly talented and nimble teams that inject a dose of disruption into some of the most impressive missions on the planet (and, sometimes, in space).
We’re so happy that SkillBridge exists and we have the opportunity to serve Veterans as they transition into the next stage of their careers outside of the armed forces.
Interested to see if Rise8 might be the catalyst for your next iteration? Go here to learn more about the roles available for SkillBridge and apply.